American 14.6 or 18
Does anyone have experience with either of these boats? I'm looking for something I can trailer easily behind my Subaru impreza wrx, can occasionally seat 4 adults, and is stable. I'm willing to sacrifice performance for this. The com-pac picnic cat also looks appealing.
I've not sailed either, but these boats look fine for your purposes. The Picnic Cat is easier to set up and sail and having the mast way forward leaves the large cockpit clear. Compac makes VERY solid boats with excellent stability and top quality detailing. They are solid as rocks and almost as slow.:D The Picnic Cat video shows a surprising degree of leeway, and I stil can't understand the point of a gaff that adds all of 1' over the mast height -- why not just use a triangular main? Would simplify everything and give better sail shape.
The American boats I have a soft spot for. I cannot vouch for their quality or handling, but they look really nice for the intended use. They offer new sailors both a main and headsail, good practice for larger boats. Square chines should give good initial stability, though it might get notchy in stronger winds, like a Lightning. The reef points should help settle it back down. The Americans have a high boom, so you don't have to crawl under it during maneuvers. Should be able to wrestle the jib w/out going on the foredeck. The boats have more sharp edges than I would like.
A slightly higher-performance open-cockpit boat is the Vanguard Nomad. It has a main, jib, and asymmetric spinnaker on a retractable sprit. It's 560 lbs, so you could tow it w/ your Soob. The Nomad can capsize it pushed hard, tho it is stable if you throttle it down. Righting it is not trivial. They can be found used at medium prices.
It might be worth asking for a test sail before buying any of these boats -- they are expensive enuf to justify that. Pile three or four people in so you can tell how it handles with a load, and how much of a scramble it is during tacking. Good luck, and let us know how the search is going.
A little experience
I have sailed quite a bit in Americans. They are OK -nothing special. They are not particularly sturdy, so you have to take very good care of them. They are simple, so there is not too much to do. You can seat four adults in them, but there is not much room for comfort. If you want basic, fairly slow sailing sitting upright for four people you will be fine with the American boats. You might want to make sure that you can put a small trolling motor on them - the ones I used had no motor and no place for one, so if you got caught out and the wind dies, you'll be out there for a while. I would look around - depending on your budget you might be able to do better.
O'Day Daysailer ??
At just under 17 feet, an O'Day Daysailer may suit the purpose even better. There were zillions made and used (for family use, not racing) are available all over the place for $800 - $2,000 complete (boat, trailer, decent sails). Virtually all parts are still available at Cape Cod Shipbuilding and D&R Marine.
There's a very active Class Association and website (DaySailer.org) with forums, classifieds, etc.
It accomodates 4 adults quite well (3 on the high side while one stays low) and the boom clears heads without ducking. It will plane in wind > 12 knots or so and we've clocked over 9 MPH on our handheld GPS on an inland lake.
I'm in my mid-50s and my wife and I can be in the water within 15 minutes of reaching the ramp... about the same at pull-out.
Daysailers were produced in two basic flavors (same hull, rigging, sails for both). Earlier models (60s into early 80s), the DS I, had an open cuddy and mahogony floorboards and coamings with a centerboard operated by a lever. The DS II was produced late 70s thru the 80s (There was a short time, I think, when both models were produced). The DS II is all plastic and its cuddy is semi-enclosed and can be secured with hatch boards. The DS II centerboard is raised / lowered by a line-block design (some feel is inferior to the DS I's lever). DS II Seating goes all the way to the transom (the DS I has a 1-foot rear deck that takes away some cockpit space).
I replaced my DS II when I came across a very nice DS I at a great price. I like the saltier look of the wood coamings and floorboards and the open, more accessible cuddy. But if you are mooring or dry-sailing where security is a concern, the DS II with its enclosed lockable cuddy may be the better choice.
One step up performance-wise, still with readily available parts, an active Class Association and room for four is the 18 foot Chrysler Buccaneer (still made by Nickols).
Bucc18 is lots of things, but stable ain't one of them.:D It's the tenderest bluddy vessel I've ever set foot in. Ripping good time if you're willing to hike below the knees, but a mischievous, wet, ill-tempered, overpowered minx. We tend to obsess over our bailers: the most important feature on the boat! While the Bucc18 has a large cockpit, large CB case + location of the mainsheet and vang make more than three people impractical -- the boat is too tippy to sit anyone to leeward. Really it's a dedicated two-up racer or performance daysailer, completely different universe from the Picnic Cat.
O'day is a good suggestion, tho. They're nice, simple little boats. Probably a bit sluggish with four adults, but they'll do.
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